Picks and Pans Review: Based on Happy Times

updated 04/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tommy Keene

Keene is an earnest songwriter from Bethesda, Md., who works within an airtight composing style that depends on jangly guitars and moody lyrics. This approach produces a professional sounding result, but it gets tedious; the image Keene sometimes conjures is of a sentry marching back and forth over the same spot. Thankfully, his lyrics are provocative enough to give the music at least some sense of urgency. On "Highwire Days" he looks back on better times: "I remember way before/ How could I feel secure/ Now I'm lost without your A-crowd." He reaches even further back on the title track, singing, "When the summer comes we'll/ All go for a ride/ In the old car that we/ Killed before it died." Keene's raunched-up cover of the Beach Boys' "Our Car Club" also relieves some of the forced angst. While Jules Shear lends a composing hand on two songs, aside from his impressionistic lyrics, the musical mix lacks much punch. And Keene ends the album on a downer with "A Way Out," an evocative tune about suicide. Keene has a knack for creating the kind of rootsy sound Bryan Adams, R.E.M. and a host of others have popularized during the '80s. This treatment of that style, however, is too often nondescript. The record would have been better had he included one or two songs with a catchy hook to make sure there was something for the K-Rock deejays and the rest of us to appreciate. (Geften)

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